An award winning, 42-home cohousing development in Orchard Park, Cambridge, Marmalade Lane is recognised as a leading example of best practice. To bring the scheme to fruition, TOWN, with its partner Trivselhus and supported by Mole Architects, was selected as the preferred developer by Cambridge City Council and Cambridge Cohousing. Much of the scheme’s aesthetic appeal is due to the use of three Vandersanden bricks: Majestic, Nevado Grey and Old Windsor.
Cohousing is a mutually supportive form of living that is well-established in northern European countries and which is gaining in popularity in the UK. At Marmalade Lane, in addition to self-contained, privately-owned terraced and apartment homes, the community shares many spaces and facilities. These include a ‘Common House’ at the centre of the development and a car-free street that is the social heart of the scheme – a place for people to socialise and for children to play.
Marmalade Lane is one of the largest examples of group custom build in the UK so developers TOWN and Mole Architects worked closely with the future residents through a process of co-design from the start. “With a menu-based approach to dwelling customisation, purchasers were able to select their chosen brick colour from the palette of the three Vandersanden bricks plus the option of a white painted brick facade,” explains Meredith Bowles, director at Mole Architects.
“Giving residents who committed to live in Marmalade Lane early on, a choice of the brick facing used for their homes was important," believes Neil Murphy, founding director of TOWN. “It has both endowed the place with a strong sense of ownership and has created a streetscape that echoes the ordinary historic Cambridge streets with their patina of age. The choice of Vandersanden bricks, with their good texture and colour, really brings the scheme to life.”
Although Marmalade Lane is on the periphery of Cambridge, the aim was to give the scheme a quality that is found in the brick colours of the attractive streets in the middle of the city. Over time the bricks of the old houses have become sooted so the palette includes a kind of sooty grey hue, the more striking pale yellow of Georgian homes and also the red brick from the Victorian terraces; there are also a reasonable proportion of buildings where people have painted the bricks. Essentially, Marmalade Lane is a concentrated version of this collective vision.
Bowles believes the choice of brick at Marmalade Lane perfectly complements this vision. “It seems to have become a Cambridge style with new developments all around now using the same mix of hues. Vandersanden’s Majestic, Nevado Grey and Old Windsor provide the ideal range of colours and offer the quality and textures that perfectly echo the vernacular.
“There is a challenge in Cambridge because the planners are keen that things are built to match the local bricks but these aren’t being made anymore. The brick factor we used introduced us to Vandersanden by providing samples of the company’s bricks that showed us a lot of possibilities. These perfectly fitted the local vernacular, the overall aesthetic and the budget. It’s usually particularly tricky to find suitable grey bricks because they’re mostly double fired, so they cost, more but Vandersanden had what we needed at an affordable price,” says Bowles.
The brickwork at Marmalade Lane is comparatively simple, the one exception being a few bands of projecting headers that create stripes of shadow as the sun moves across the facade of one of the apartment buildings at the corner of the site. Two mortar colours were employed with a dark mortar for the Nevado Grey bricks and a lighter, sandier colour for the Majestic and Old Windsor bricks. The Nevado Grey bricks have been employed to bring cohesion to many of the key elements of the scheme, including the flat roofed structures that house the air source heat pumps at the front of each house, the bicycle and bins stores as well as the Common House.
Bowles is enthusiastic about the Vandersanden product. “It’s terrific and quite unusual to find one company with such a strong and varied range of characterful bricks. Part of the scheme’s success was finding bricks that worked and had lots of character within a reasonably modest budget. There is something special about the surface texture, patination, irregularity and the sense of liveliness that the Vandersanden bricks offer. They evoke a handmade quality found in older bricks that makes them much more attractive than so many of the bricks made today.”
To find out more about this project, and for more information on Majestic, Nevado Grey and Old Windsor, as well as other high-quality bricks available from Vandersanden, visit their website.